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The New Bosses 2022: Zoe Williamson, UTA

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosses 2022 interview with Vegard Storaas, promoter at Live Nation Norway. The series concludes with Zoe Williamson, booking agent at UTA in the US.

Zoe Rae Williamson joined UTA in 2016, working her way up from the mailroom to music agent. She helps strategise and book tours and live opportunities for clients like Arlo Parks, St. Vincent, Spoon, Big Freedia, Pom Pom Squad, Nova Twins, Hovvdy, and more. She also covers North American Pride events for artists including Tinashe, Shygirl, and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, among others.

She finds inspiration in UTA’s collaborative and stimulating environment and holds leadership roles in several company programmes to promote positivity and inclusivity in the music industry. She co-founded La Femme Majeure, an event series focused on empowering women, and Justice Now, an internal initiative to combat systemic racism.

 


You started out in the famous mailroom at UTA. Is this still a viable path for people wanting to break into the music industry in 2022?

Absolutely. I wouldn’t have traded my experience for anything, and there is still immense value to starting in the mailroom at an agency. At UTA, music agents work across the entire company to find opportunities for clients in other business verticals like acting, writing, film, and many other spaces. Since there are so many resources available for clients, it’s helpful to begin your career journey by learning as much as possible about every department, and the mailroom is a great place to start absorbing that knowledge. It’s also important to remember that working in the mailroom or another entry-level agency position doesn’t mean you have to be an agent. So many promoters, managers, label executives, and more got their start working as agency interns, assistants, and trainees. You never know where you’ll end up.

“We wanted to create an environment in which all women – regardless of their levels – could come together, get to know each other, and build community”

La Femme Majeure and Justice Now sound like fantastic initiatives. Can you tell us more about them?

La Femme Majeure (LFM) started off in New York and has since expanded globally. This year, we are hoping to launch LFM panel events in Nashville and London and to resume in-person events in Los Angeles and New York. Many events geared towards empowering women tend to focus specifically on high-level veteran executives and students looking to launch their careers, so we started LFM to create a networking event series that also includes women in the middle of that spectrum, who are succeeding in their current roles while aiming to take the next step in their professional journeys.

We wanted to create an environment in which all women – regardless of their levels – could come together, get to know each other, and build community. The moment you walk into an LFM event, it needs to feel like home. We’ve been able to accomplish that over the years because we go into every event with the intention of facilitating inclusion and warmth. Co-founding LFM with my colleagues is one of my proudest accomplishments. Launching and maintaining the series has been a true group effort, and I feel very lucky to work with such exceptional women.

Justice Now started in 2020 following the police murders of multiple Black Americans, including George Floyd. Quarantine forced everyone to face the reality of how racism still permeates the country. The founding members of Justice Now at UTA have always been communicating about these issues so when the George Floyd news hit, we immediately decided to come together and create structured efforts to combat racism within the industry. We have continually made progress since Justice Now’s inception by increasing inclusivity within the agent training program, creating regular education-focused programming, organising internal mentorship Q&A’s with agents, and more. We are moving forward and it’s important to celebrate those wins as motivation to make more forward strides in years to come.

Do you think the music industry and consumer brands are best exploiting the opportunities that Pride has to offer, or do you think these events should remain somewhat ring-fenced as cultural and educational institutions?

As both a queer person and someone that works at a major agency, it’s important for me to see the benefits of both large-scale, company-sponsored Pride events and more underground grassroots events. Additionally, many LGBTQIA+ artists make a huge portion of their annual revenue during Pride Month through corporate events. However, the LGBTQIA+ community doesn’t stop existing outside of June and other international Pride months, and we need to be creating more year-round live experiences and opportunities to support the community beyond standard Pride months and timelines.

“While it’s important to raise your hand when someone needs help, you can’t take on everything or you’ll burn out”

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

I could never pick just one! But I will say that one of the greatest highlights has been the friendships and trustworthy relationships I’ve formed and nurtured over the years. It has been, and continues to be, a joy to get to know so many great people within the music space. We’re nothing in this industry without each other. Nothing gets done alone!

If you could offer the 18-year-old Zoe one piece of advice, what would it be?

Not everyone’s problem is your problem. When I was younger, I often overextended myself to the point of exhaustion trying to help everyone in my life, even people I wasn’t close with. While it’s important to raise your hand when someone needs help, you can’t take on everything or you’ll burn out. Also, there are occasions in which other colleagues may be better equipped to help solve an issue. Now, when someone is going through a challenge, I consider my bandwidth and relevant experience before jumping in.

The gender imbalance at festivals has been an issue again this year. Are there any proactive suggestions agents can make to help address these problems?

When agents are pitching a woman-identifying client to a festival buyer, they need to be able to articulate why that particular artist belongs on that specific line-up. It is essential to educate ourselves on our clients’ unique personal backgrounds, bodies of work, and fanbases beyond their gender identity, so that we can provide the buyers a more well-rounded perspective on our artists.

“During the shutdown, people across the music industry had to work together to find new ways for artists to connect with fans and make a living”

As an agent, are there any particular events or forums that you visit to try to discover the next big act?

I’ve always been a big fan of The Fader’s Gen-F profiles, which highlight talented emerging artists, and app-curated playlists that recommend songs by new artists based on my current music preferences. However, word-of-mouth will always be my favourite way of discovering potential new clients because it encourages a sense of community with their other fans, as we’re all helping those artists launch their careers.

What are the biggest lessons that you learned during the pandemic that you can use to help with your career going forward?

I learned that you can’t get anything done in this job without getting in touch with your humanity. Before the pandemic, I thought that I needed to forge my own path for myself and my clients through aggressive negotiation tactics, but that simply isn’t true. You can achieve your goals without trying to force someone’s hand. During the shutdown, people across the music industry had to work together to find new ways for artists to connect with fans and make a living. We succeeded by building collaborative partnerships and trusting each other. Now, I try to work in tandem with others to achieve goals and solve problems instead of trying to assert dominance to force something to get done. A colleague once suggested we should assume positive intent. I really like that concept, and I’ve been able to accomplish so much more in the past two years because of it.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Vegard Storaas, Live Nation Norway

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Stella Scocco, club and entertainment manager of Södra Teatern in Sweden. The series continues with Vegard Storaas, promoter at Live Nation Norway.

Storaas started booking student festivals as well as being an agent for up-and-coming artists while in college. After college, he secured a job at Music Norway, an export office that helps Norwegian artists in international markets. In 2016, he joined Live Nation where he spent the first three years in a team with Martin Nielsen before becoming a promoter in 2019.

As a promoter, Storaas has worked on building the company’s portfolio of urban and regional festivals. One of the highlights has been NEON festival, a pop festival that started in 2022 that sold 18,000 tickets for each day.

From the very beginning at Live Nation, Storaas has looked to identify opportunities with unfulfilled potential in the market. One of these is country music, which is growing internationally and which punches above its weight in Norway. After two years of rescheduling, Storaas finally got to promote two arena shows for American country singer and songwriter Brad Paisley this summer, which sold 20,000 tickets.

 


At college, you were booking festivals as well as representing emerging talent. How did you learn those skills and who did you turn to for advice?
The short answer is I didn’t. It was learning by doing all the way. I picked up a few things from former students and the Internet (surprisingly there is a lot to learn from interviews and articles) and went with my gut. It felt a bit like steering a rollercoaster built by non-graduated students.

I had a teacher at university that I turned to for advice. He used to work in the industry as a promoter and manager so he knew a lot. He was good at pointing me in the right direction when I was in deep water, which by my (and probably his) recollection, was pretty often.

You worked at Music Norway for a while. Are there any areas where you think the commercial live music industry could work better with export offices?
Export offices like Music Norway use a lot of resources to help the industry build networks in the main export markets. That is crucial for success. Meanwhile, there are several commercial companies like Live Nation and FKP Scorpio that have offices across Europe and North America and close working relationship with colleagues in the most important markets.

Let’s say a major label and a global promoter in a small market such as Norway made a coordinated push on an emerging talent through its respective systems. If it happened simultaneously, I think chances are that this artist would break the surface and have something good to build on. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I think there are some unfulfilled synergies that haven’t been really exploited in that space.

“We had a whole pandemic to come up with the plan [for Neon festival], now we have to prove we can stay”

Launching a pop festival like NEON in an uncertain marketplace was a risk. Just what made the event such a success?
Several factors I’d say. We had the festival on the first weekend of June, the same day as the last exam for students (Trondheim – where NEON takes place – is the most popular city in Norway for students). It effectively became the event that kicked off the summer. Our line-up was made up of only domestic talent, which was deliberate. With quarantine and different Covid rules in every country when we launched, our thinking was that it would feel safer buying tickets for domestic artists.

By on-sale, it had been over two years since the domestic artists that normally sell lots of tickets had played restriction-free shows. Naturally, there was extra demand in the market and this I think accumulated in NEON, being first out. Also worth mentioning is Karpe, our main headliner, who recently sold 110,000 tickets in Oslo. We had several great urban acts lower on the bill that together with Karpe created a strong package.

2023 will be like a second album; we had a whole pandemic to come up with this plan, now we have to prove we can stay.

Your shows with Brad Paisley prove that there is a strong demand for country music in Norway. Are there any festivals in the pipeline?
Can’t say I haven’t thought about it. There might be a market for it. But there are some challenges, too. Country music doesn’t have the same position in every European market. The interest varies significantly, and historically that has made it difficult to build a festival tour that makes sense for American superstars. The festivals that exist are spread out in period, size, and profile; some are domestic talent-leaning, others focus on Americana etc.

Many big country artists come to Europe to build a broader audience and want to play contemporary festivals rather than traditional country music festivals. So, even if there is a country festival, a wish-list headliner might want to do Glastonbury instead. Taking all this into account, country in Europe is not the easiest, but let’s see what the future holds.

“The live industry in Norway is a lot more than Oslo and new talent”

And what about other musical genres – are you looking at other gaps in the market for shows?
There is a running joke in the office that I have music taste as if I were in my late 60s. I laugh but it’s a bit true. Many of the artists I discovered while searching through my father’s record collection in my youth fascinate me as a promoter. First and foremost because it’s good music and great musicians but also because there is a market for these artists. Fans are loyal and have got purchasing power. The live industry in Norway is a lot more than Oslo and new talent, and while we remind ourselves of that, I think some of these legacy artists are left behind.

It’s been impossible to navigate this space without help from my very good colleagues, Rune Lem and Martin Nielsen, that I learn something from every day. If I could be half the promoter that they are, I would be happy with my career.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
Free the music industry from TikTok! It’s a good question. The truth is that it’s probably several things that should be changed to make it a better place. Our peak season just passed, and there is no doubt that everybody has been working full speed this summer. We have been out of practice, which has required extra time and energy on the same tasks. It hasn’t come without a cost. I see many [people] are worn out and tired after these months.

During Covid our industry paused and many people started reflecting on their jobs. Some realised that they had been in a hamster wheel for too long, so they quit. The lifestyle wasn’t healthy. If the industry doesn’t create systems to avoid constant overload, where it’s not just about keeping your head above water, I’m afraid more good people with great skills will quit, too. Professional and highly qualified workers are key to any success. I think we all have seen recent examples from this summer where lack of experience led to disadvantages. We could learn from other workplaces and look at how more institutionalised industries do it. It’s crucial that we take care of our own.

“We could learn from other workplaces and look at how more institutionalised industries do it”

Having a good bond with agents and artist managers is crucial. How did you maintain contact with people during the pandemic, and do you feel that the working relationship between agents and promoters has changed over the past couple of years?
Pre-pandemic I travelled to the UK three or four times a year to meet agents, managers, and colleagues. For me, as a new promoter, these tours were very fruitful, and equally challenging when they suddenly stopped. Only rescheduling what was already in the pipeline didn’t help with the development [of relationships].

Now that we are back to normal, I am continuing where I left off pre-Covid as these relationships are super important. As a promoter, it’s about making the agents trust me as the right guy for their artist. But I don’t think the relationships between us have changed that much. It’s similar to how it’s always been: dealing, wheeling, beers, billing. That said, during the crisis, there was a rare feeling of companionship between agents and promoters, as we were all in it together. It would be fantastic if that kept going.

What one thing would you like artists to learn about coming to perform in Norway?
Norway is twice the length of the UK but has only half the population of London. We slide in at number 215 on population density and stand three metres away from each other while waiting for the bus. We love our freezing cabins with no plumbing and our dry humour. I guess we can be seen as a bit cold in the beginning. It takes time. It’s in our DNA. But once we warm to people, become friends and fans and you capture our hearts, there is a whole lot of love to give. Keep that in mind for next time. It’s not you, it’s us!

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Stella Scocco, Södra Teatern

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Steff James, international tour booker at Live Nation (UK). The series continues with Stella Scocco, club and entertainment manager of Södra Teatern in Sweden.

With a genuine passion for culture and music, Scocco started her career as a restaurant manager as a 20 year old, with aspirations of enhancing the link between the Stockholm music and restaurant industries.

As the entertainment manager at the award-winning bar and restaurant Mishumashu, she focused on embedding art and live music to the culinary experience. She continued her career as head of entertainment at the exclusive club Moon Motel, but when Södra Teatern, Stockholm’s most famous concert and club venue and a part of ASM global, was re-conceptualising their brand, Scocco was asked to lead the process. The ambition was to create a dynamic place where old meets new, respecting the institution of Södra Teatern and its history, whilst remaining relevant and in constant motion. Since then, the venue has hosted several of the most emerging artists in Sweden, as well as international electronic music acts on its old theatre stage.

As the club and entertainment manager of Södra Teatern, Scocco’s team has recently added three additional bookers, and 2023 is looking bright.

In addition, she is in the process of finishing a Masters in law at Stockholm University. She also has a background in business, macroeconomics, and economic history.

 


You are studying for a law degree. How do you think this will help in your career and your day-to-day activities?
I think everyone would benefit from some law studies! Perhaps a whole degree was pushing it… Law and economics are a big part of the music industry, as it is in almost every industry. When you study law, you study our common set of rules and in that sense the conditions to do something. For a venue to be successful and run in a sustainable way it takes more than me and my colleagues booking amazing artists. We need bartenders and they need to have a good work environment, that’s labour law. We need to create an environment free from sexual harassment for our guests and employees, that’s discrimination legislation. We need to work with agents and booking companies, that’s contract law. The list goes on!

The link between music and hospitality seems obvious, but do you think it’s something that needs more investment and better strategies across the industry?
I think the link seems obvious as well but it is my experience that you are an expert on one or the other. I have worked in restaurants doing live shows but we always struggled with the technical parts; as well as the economy, live is expensive and margins are often tight for small companies. This answer will naturally be mostly based on the Swedish scene, and when I look at the jazz scene in New York or the bar scene in London, I find myself missing small music venues in Stockholm. I would love to see more support from the music industry in creating these small stages; making live music a part of Stockholmers’ daily life.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
That’s a hard one! I think my favourite feeling overall is watching someone do an amazing debut show; club venues are a great place to do such shows! Sometimes you see an artist take the stage for the first time and both you and the crowd just know instantly that it’s exactly where they are supposed to be. I never feel more privileged to have my job than in moments like that.

“If you as a booker feel you lack the competence to book female or PoC artists, it’s your responsibility to get that knowledge”

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
You will get two things whether you like it or not! Equality and more fair deals for younger artists! We need representation in every part of the industry, and we need to work a lot harder to achieve it. If you as a booker feel you lack the competence to book female artists or PoC artists, it’s your responsibility to get that knowledge, and in my opinion, the best way to do so is to have a broad representation in every office.

I also think we need to look into the deals younger artists get. The power imbalance between an unknown artist and a major booking company will always be the root of unfair deals. The Swedish labour market is based on collective bargaining, and I think we need to support the young artist to do just so, setting some new industry standards for various deals.

Your team at Södra Teatern has really grown under your leadership. How many events are you hosting and what kind of capacities are we talking about?
Södra Teatern, as a whole, hosts around 230 live concerts a year and 100 club nights with occasional live acts. We have four stages varying in capacity from 250 to 1,500 people. The club has a capacity of 1,200 people, three dance floors, and four bars. It’s a big house!

“I think social media in many ways democratised the music industry”

As a young venue manager and promoter, are there any particular events or forums that you visit to try to discover the next big act or where you can grow your network of business contacts?
I learn mostly from my amazing team that constantly sends me new acts they found browsing the Internet or social media. I think social media in many ways democratised the music industry in that way! It’s great that we share knowledge about new talent with peers in the industry but it also risks creating a problematic “if you’re in, you’re in” situation.

Are there any particular events or shows you are looking forward to this year or next?
So many! Next week one of my favourite Swedish musicians, Markus Krunegård, is playing at our big summer terrace, and First Aid Kit is doing an arena tour, and Elton John is coming to Stockholm! But I think that my best show of 2022 will be some show we book for the club on a whim after hearing a debut single and falling in love with it. Last year, I helped a new artist put a band together after hearing his debut single, and within three weeks after releasing it he did his first-ever live show and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen! This summer he played Way Out West (Sweden’s biggest music festival), only half a year after that show!

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
If someone asked me that question five years ago, I would never in my life have answered that I would be doing this interview. I think that’s the best part of life – you never know what comes your way. So, my answer will be: no idea but I’m looking very much forward to finding out!

See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Steff James, Live Nation

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosses 2022 interview with Steel Hanf, managing director of Proxy Agency, in the US. The series continues with Steff James, international tour booker at Live Nation (UK).

Welsh-born Steff James graduated from City University London with a BMus degree in music before beginning her Live Nation career in 2017 as a touring assistant. Having worked in the European touring team until early 2020, she then transferred to international touring, stepping into her current role as international tour booker under EVP global artist development Kelly Chappel.

Based in London, James works closely with the company’s local booking teams, coordinating and centrally managing international tours across the UK and Europe.

 


Leaving university to secure a job at Live Nation is quite an achievement. What advice could you offer to others who are trying to get a foot in the door of the music industry?
It’s always valuable to keep an end goal in mind but don’t get too blinkered by how you plan on achieving it. I graduated with a music degree heavily involving classical performance and never predicted being in my role now. The correlation between my degree and my job isn’t obvious, however there’s a lot that’s transferable, so take up every opportunity and every meeting. You never know how well they could land.

What are the biggest lessons that you learned during the Covid pandemic that you are using to help with your career going forward?
The pandemic offered a perspective that I don’t think I’d have gained otherwise. I’m not the most patient person and we move fast whilst juggling a lot, so it was easy to get caught up in problems that nowadays seem almost trivial. It’s been essential learning to take a step back and breathe, especially as we navigated unfamiliar ground with a significantly reduced team. It also serves as a good reminder that I’m still here doing what I love, especially when the pandemic altered that for so many. I’ve learned to be a little more grateful in that sense, too.

“We have such a fantastic network of young promoters across the world, and I’m lucky to have that community”

You have worked across numerous tours during your five years at LN, but if you had to choose, what would be your favourite highlight so far?
It’s tricky to choose a favourite as I’ve been very fortunate. However, a moment I’m really proud of from the last year was running CKay’s first show here in London. Working solo with the label to pull the show together in under a week was a challenge; however, the result was fantastic, the show was seamless, and he and his team were thrilled with the result. It felt like a great win.

You have a reputation among your colleagues for being able to spot emerging talent. How and where do you discover new music?
Streaming’s always the first go-to; it immediately offers the world in terms of what’s out there. It’s exciting when you find an artist with a hundred monthly listeners, play a track, and instinct tells you that you’ve found something great. That said, word of mouth is also a winner. We have such a fantastic network of young promoters across the world, and I’m lucky to have that community. Not only does it help us all get the job done, but it’s nice as we also share a lot in general, too. There’s a real love of finding new music to just enjoy.

“The pandemic has highlighted that mental health problems don’t discriminate”

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
As an industry, we are making welcome progress in our approach to mental health. However, the historic ‘keep calm and carry on’ stiff upper lip is still very much present, and it needs softening.

That isn’t to say that such a mindset isn’t without benefit – our jobs aren’t easy, and the all-consuming nature of most roles demand a thick skin. However, the pandemic has highlighted that mental health problems don’t discriminate, so rather than being reactive, I would love to see the overall conversation evolve, in how we can collectively be proactive in building a healthier balance.

What’s the biggest challenge for you and LN’s international touring team in the year ahead?
The touring landscape is an interesting one to navigate at the moment. We’re working within a very congested market, so even down to something as simple as avails, it can be a puzzle. Working across the whole of Europe, we have to be mindful of local issues that could have a knock-on effect, whilst also ensuring the best possible outcome for the artist. The cost-of-living crisis in the UK affecting ticket prices is a prime example. It’s a delicate balance to get it all right.

“We’re working within a very congested market, so even down to something as simple as avails, it can be a puzzle”

What is your favourite venue and why?
I have a few but the London Coliseum is one that always springs to mind. It’s not one I’ve booked (yet), so I put it down to the feeling you get when you know you’re walking into somewhere special. It happens every time I go there. It’s a really beautiful space.

How would you encourage the next generation to choose the live music sector for their chosen career path?Articulating how fast, unpredictable, slightly crazy, and fun the industry and its people are is impossible in a few sentences, so I’d probably just invite them in for a couple days to see for themselves. If I’ve done my job of convincing them properly, they’ll turn up for day two.

See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Steel Hanf, Proxy Agency

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Sönke Schal, head of people & culture at Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (DE). The series continues with Steel Hanf, managing director of Proxy Agency, in the US.

Steel Hanf (30) is managing director of Proxy Agency, a Melbourne-based talent agency birthed in partnership with Untitled Group in January 2021. Eighteen months later, Proxy has booked over 1,000 gigs across Asia Pacific while nurturing a community of likeminded industry professionals and a roster of 80+ artists, of which Hanf is the agent for Hayden James, What So Not, SG Lewis, Lastlings, Cosmo’s Midnight, Partiboi69, Nina Las Vegas, jamesjamesjames, Memphis LK, X CLUB., among others.

A long way from his birthplace of New Jersey, Hanf was previously an agent with WME for five years across their Los Angeles and Sydney offices. Since 2020, he has participated in Diversity Arts Australia’s equity and inclusion programme called Fair Play, which is a crash course on diversity; safe and inclusive workplaces; and representation throughout the music industry.

 


Making the move to Australia is quite an unusual step for an American. How did that relocation under WME come about?
I was promoted to agent at WME when I was 24, and they asked me if I’d move to Sydney to help grow their Australian office. Moving to Australia wasn’t ever something I’d considered, but my growing interest in Australian music at the time was probably moving me in that direction without my realising it.

The company knew I had a good ear for finding new talent, and the idea of living and breathing the Australian culture that was producing these incredible global artists became an inspiring idea to me. Young Steel told himself the move would just be for two years and then he would move to London or go back to LA. But the more time I spent in Australia the more I realised how fluently I was able to manoeuvre the Australian industry and make strong relationships quickly. I was at every show, as many festivals as I could physically do, and the more I got amongst it and the more I felt people rallying around me, the more I felt like I was finally home.

You obviously spotted a gap in the marketplace when you launched Proxy Agency. Have you always had an entrepreneurial streak or has this been a leap of faith?
I’ve always had strong intuition in recognising opportunities. Australia’s agency landscape was missing something that I thought wasn’t existing yet: an agency with a global perspective on things that is concurrently nurturing the new wave of artists and industry professionals under a banner that means something culturally. So much of the up-and-coming world-class talent in Australia is found in very small pockets of culture. We recognise the value in signing talent at this level instead of waiting for them to be able to sell X amount of tickets, and we don’t try to change what they are doing, as the culture they represent is so meaningful and powerful.

It’s our job to augment what these artists are already doing and connect them with the right parts of the wider industry that share their values. The artists on our roster have a feeling of alignment with each other in one way or another; if it’s not by ‘genre,’ it’s by the energy they are putting out into the world. That’s why Proxy feels like a family; the artists on Proxy are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and there’s an energy behind it because the music matters and we’re representing the change we want to see in the world.

“We are one of the few agencies in Australia that has inclusion and diversity clauses in our contracts”

I’m guessing that Proxy is not quite as corporate as WME, but are there any significant ideas that you’ve taken from your previous employer into your own business?
I’m very grateful for my years with WME; it’s how I learned the global live business and how to be an agent at the highest level. I was able to see what works and what doesn’t work and apply that knowledge to my vision for Proxy. Operating in a corporate structure came very naturally to me, but it wasn’t until I left that setting was I able to properly spread my wings and navigate the industry in the ways that feel most intuitive to me. Proxy’s spirit is very independent, for the artists and for the people.

Being the partner of a recognised promoter might raise a few eyebrows. Is there an ethos that allows Proxy to happily deal with Untitled’s rivals?
The agent/promoter model is not a foreign concept in Australia like it is in most parts of the world. Because the industry is so small here, there is mutual respect for each other’s priorities because at the end of the day, everyone is in this for the talent, the creativity, and putting on the best shows possible. Our job as agents is to always be an objective third party and work with the promoters that put forward the best opportunities for our artists. Our ethos is that the connection is not a conflict of interest but a conflict for interest.

While Proxy is a part of the Untitled Group, the agency runs and operates completely independently. We are artist-first; external promoters have recognised that through their dealings with us and our actions, and Untitled respects when we pass on their offers in favour of competitors.

Proxy has had a rapid rise to prominence, but what has been your biggest highlight so far?
Signing Hayden James who is an A-level festival headliner in Australia, in a very competitive pursuit, was a massive moment for me and Proxy as a whole. Given how fresh Proxy is in the market, being able to sign headliner-level talent this early, [helped affirm] that our presence is resonating the way we want it to at all levels of the industry. The resources that signings like these provide starts a chain reaction of rapid growth via new hirings and more signings at both the established- and development-level. Recent moments include signing UK artist SG Lewis for Asia Pacific representation and signing Australia’s electronic maestro Willaris. K.

“Ensuring indigenous cultures are hired, signed, and supported in our industry is of utmost priority for us”

As a new boss, what is one thing you would change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
Requiring a rule of kindness, respect, social impact, and understanding in our dealings with one another!

Fair Play sounds like a fantastic initiative. What does it mean in real terms, and how does its guidance affect your everyday activities?
Ensuring diversity, inclusivity, and safe space workplaces has been an ethos we carry into the office every day. Proxy’s staff is more than 70% female-identifying, and we are one of the few agencies in Australia that has inclusion and diversity clauses in our contracts. We know our artists are not interested in playing on events that do not have appropriate representation throughout the bill, and our roster is very diverse across many walks of life. We have so much heavily sought-after talent, which means we have the leverage to start these conversations across the industry and make a difference. Being in Australia means we are also operating on the stolen land of the traditional owners, so ensuring indigenous cultures are hired, signed, and supported in our industry is of utmost priority for us.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? Is there scope for Proxy to expand internationally, for instance?
I will still be heading up Proxy, and I see us growing in every direction. It’s crazy that we’ve only just written the first chapter of Proxy’s story. I’ve always seen Proxy as more than a booking agency, so expanding the scope of our business across the media landscape and using these resources to create more impact and provide more for our clients is a top goal of ours. Expanding internationally is something we’ve already begun doing in Asia. Like I know with my artists’ touring strategies, if things get so loud domestically, then they will inevitably bleed out internationally. Australia is a global tastemaker market.

See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Seny Kassaye, FORT Agency

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Resi Scheuermann, promoter and organiser at Konzertbüro Schoneberg in Germany. The series continues with Seny Kassaye, agent at Fort Agency in US and Canada.

After hosting bi-monthly radio shows at university, Seny Kassaye joined FORT Agency (a female-driven and Brown-owned boutique talent agency) during the pandemic. Starting off as an intern, just months later she stepped into a coordination role and brought exponential success through her marketing prowess leading to two sold-out tours in Europe/UK and North America for FORT clients.

Recognising her keen A&R ears and her marketing adroitness, FORT made Kassaye an agent after just a year and a half. She now represents UK group Children of Zeus for North America. Additionally, she has contributed on projects with clients such as bbymutha, Fly Anakin, Lex Records, SXSW, Adult Swim, DICE, NTS, and more. She continues to be committed to developing the future generations of innovative artists.

Meanwhile, Kassaye has taken on a second role in digital marketing at WAVO, where she has already worked on global marketing campaigns for Central Cee’s single Doja; Megan Thee Stallion’s album Traumazine; Tyler, the Creator’s album Flower Boy 5th Anniversary, and 22Gz’s single Sniper Gang Freestyle Part 2, to name a few.

 


Lots of people are trying to find a job in the music industry. What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a foot in the door?
My advice would be to get involved in everything music as early as you can. For instance, in my case, I joined my university’s radio club and got to host my own radio show. I’ve also been curating and sharing playlists on social media purely out of passion for years now. By doing so, it opened the doors for me to work on some small-scale projects, connect with other creatives locally and even internationally. Little did I know, I was developing my experience and acquiring skills that are in high demand for entry-level jobs. It’s those passion projects and hobbies that may eventually set you apart from others and help you land that coveted job!

You were recently promoted to an agent role. What is your process in trying to find promising acts who need representation?
I usually approach artists that I am a genuine fan of and who I believe bring something different to the table. Working at an agency like FORT is great because we truly value creative ingenuity and diversity in our roster, and so it has allowed for better flexibility and control on who I decide to sign. On the other hand, within that pool of artists, I do have to consider their streaming numbers; whether they’re signed to a label; social media presence/engagement; live show experience and ticket history; and whether or not their overall branding as an artist is strong and cohesive. Although I choose those that I know I can develop for the live stage in the long run, at the end of the day, it’s still a business and I need some type of foundation to make them as palatable to promoters and buyers as possible.

“It’s those passion projects and hobbies that may eventually set you apart from others and help you land that coveted job”

Do you have any mentors you can turn to for advice?
Absolutely. Mira Silvers, the founder of FORT, has been my go-to person from the moment I started, and I know I’ll still turn to her for advice even ten years from now. We have very similar backgrounds and upbringings and coming from marginalised communities, working in an industry that historically has pushed women like us to the side, it’s been refreshing and amazing to learn the ropes of the business from someone as knowledgeable and dedicated to the craft as Mira is.

You have a second role in digital marketing. Is there any crossover between your two jobs, or can your agency work benefit from the skills you are learning at WAVO?
My knowledge as an agent has undoubtedly better informed and influenced my decisions when strategising and creating marketing campaigns for artists and major labels. On the other hand, working at WAVO for just a few months now, I’ve learned to create and set up proper ad campaigns for clients’ projects and releases. When sending artists on tour, successful and effective promotional campaigns can have a real impact on turnout at shows, ticket sales, and overall revenue for my clients and even promoters, and it’s definitely a skill that has made a somewhat arduous process so much smoother for me.

You’ve found a role at a Brown-owned business, which hopefully gives you a support mechanism. But are you finding yourself having to take on any frustrating battles simply because of your gender and ethnicity?
Unfortunately, yes. I think I’ve faced more challenges when dealing with individuals outside of North America, and I mainly believe it’s because of the small differences in culture that, sometimes, brings about some pushback or some sort of misunderstanding from the other end. However – and this is something that I think a lot of working professionals of colour across industries can relate to – most times, when facing those microaggressions, all we can do is “charge it to the game” and find a way to not let it affect us. It’s mainly out of fear that it may not only reflect badly and disadvantage us, personally, but other individuals in the industry or those who will enter it in the future who are part of a visible minority. It’s probably the most frustrating thing out of all this because I’ve never shied away from speaking my truth in my everyday life.

“Just like we have A&Rs to scout and develop emerging talent, I believe it could be greatly beneficial in having the same for live”

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
Just like we have A&Rs to scout and develop emerging talent, I believe it could be greatly beneficial in having individuals do the same for the live scene, and I would want a more diverse group of agents and promoters entering this industry for that. This means we need more accessibility generally, through outreach and education and sharing of knowledge, and that is something I would champion over the course of my career as I feel most people don’t necessarily think of being an agent/promoter when trying to break into the industry, even less so for people of colour, in my opinion. I think the trickle-down effect from opening up this tightknit community (because the live industry is actually smaller than one might think) can help break down the monopolisation of emerging artists solely for profit and refocus resources to independent agencies who value the process of developing talent in the long run.

Being a young agent in the tough North American market must have its challenges, but have you found any events or industry forums that are helping you to network and find new allies/partners for you and your clients?
As a young professional who just started in the music industry not too long ago, I’ve sometimes felt out of place and out of touch with the veterans that have held it down for so long. Attending SXSW for the first time has been quite beneficial (and fun!) in all aspects, especially for networking. I was able to meet some powerhouses in the business but also a lot of young professionals like myself who share and understand my vision of music in its current state and musical taste. It’s been easier to have that breakthrough and forge those long-lasting and important relationships that have served me and clients well.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Honestly, this is a hard question for me to answer. Only because there’s so much I want to do in this industry, and the way that time keeps passing by, five years feels like five months! But definitely, within the next five years, I could see myself as a promoter and producing live shows and showcases, as I’ve already dabbled in it. I think it’ll be another creative way for me to highlight new talent, and I would love to do so in Europe and the UK (many of my favourite discoveries – including my first signee – are from there, so I definitely got a soft spot for the continent). On the other hand, working at a major label like RCA, in the marketing department, is one of my ultimate goals. We’ll see which one I’ll get to accomplish first!

See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Lewis Wilde, head of music partnerships at DICE. The series continues with Maciej Korczak, co-founder at Follow The Step in Poland.

In 2015, at the age of 23, he opened concert agency called Follow The Step (FTS) with his business partner Marcin Szymanowski. The first concerts organised by the agency included Post Malone, The Internet, Anderson .Paak, Mount Kimbie, Rhye, and Autechre.

In 2016, FTS opened a club called Smolna, which quickly became the most popular techno club in Poland, hosting DJ’s such as Tale of Us, Kiasmos, Jeff Mills, Amelie Lens, Dubfire, Charlotte de Witte, Laurent Garnier, Miss Kittin, Sam Paganini, Fatboy Slim, and many more.

Nowadays, FTS owns two music venues – Smolna and Praga Centrum – and seven festivals (World Wide Warsaw, Made in WWA, Summer Contrast, FEST Festival, On Air Festival, and Undercity). Artists such as Jorja Smith, Tame Impala, Jamie XX, The Chainsmokers, and Stromae have headlined at FTS’s events in 2022.

FTS also organises over 100 international headline shows per year, including Louis Tomlinson, Alan Walker, Avril Lavigne, Melody Gardot, Hardwell, Robert Glasper, Boris Brejcha, Rise Against, Denzel Curry, and is constantly growing and developing.

 


Your career, so far, has been pretty remarkable. Tell us a bit about how you managed to book Steve Aoki and Kygo while you were still a teenager?
Determination is the key! At the age of 19, I’d already organised plenty of high-school events. I’ve booked overseas electronic artists for them like cyberpunkers or Tiga. My goal back then was to work for one of the most popular venues in Warsaw at the time, and I was told by the manager of the venue that in order to do that I have to bring them a big overseas act, so that’s what I did – three weeks later, we’d done the Steve Aoki show thanks to my booking, and it was a sold-out event.

“We decided to open a techno club there called Smolna…we like to call it a Polish Berghain”

There were already some big promoters in Poland when you launched Follow The Step. What was your strategy to make the business a success?
Passion! The whole Follow The Step team honestly love what we’re doing and we are always hungry for more. Our company doesn’t have a certain strategy, we’re just simply doing the best we can, and we’re always up for new challenges.

Follow The Step was officially launched in 2017 as a booking agency for international DJs for Polish venues and clubs. From the very start, I wanted to focus on the booking, so I was lucky that I met co-owner of the company – Marcin Szymanowski – who is focusing on the business side of our company.

At first, we wanted to book club nights and then we became interested in small gigs. After a while, we started looking for a place for our office and this way we’ve found a dumpy basement in the centre of Warsaw, which we restored and [then] decided to open a techno club there called Smolna. We like to call it a Polish Berghain, and it was our springboard to establishing a concert agency in Poland, talking to agents, and networking.

Nowadays, being at IFF [the International Festival Forum] I’m talking to agents about artists that could easily fill up Polish arenas but also we’re entering new markets like Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

“I’d make [the industry] more gender balanced as I think it’s still something that the industry must work on”

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
It was definitely organising a charity concert to support Ukraine when the war started, together with television station TVN, in less than two weeks. We sold out the show for 10,000 people and raised over $2m (€2m).

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I’d make it more gender balanced as I think it’s still something that the industry must work on. That’s why in Follow The Step most of the employees are women, and we very much believe that they can work within every sector of music industry from production and sponsoring to media and marketing.

For a young company, the pandemic must have been tough. Can you tell us a bit about your Covid experience?
It was a tough time for sure and full of uncertainty about what was going to happen next, but we’ve used this time the best way we could. We were doing everything we could to maintain the company, and our main goal was not to fire a single person as our employees are the most important to us; we know that we can’t do anything without our team. We were lucky that we got support from our government, so it also allowed us to do that.

We were also the first agency in Poland that managed to do gigs and a festival during Covid and managed to give people some entertainment in a safe way. We also decided to take a risk and organise FEST Festival for 30,000 vaccinated people, as one of very few festivals in Europe in 2021.

“I never thought that I’ll end up having seven festivals, headline shows, and events, or over 70 people in our agency”

Setting up seven festivals in less than six years is very impressive. What tips would you give to other people who are looking to launch new events?
Try and don’t give up! Also don’t be scared to dream. When I was first starting, I never thought that I’ll end up having seven festivals, headline shows, and events, or over 70 people in our agency. But If you’re passionate enough and [you don’t mind sacrificing] most of your personal life, then it’s definitely something worth trying. But please remember that music and festivals are addictive, so you have to remember your [loved ones] and don’t give all of your time to work, as it’s easy to forget when you’re always hungry for more.

Having a good bond with agents and artist managers is crucial. How did you maintain contact with people during the pandemic, and do you feel that the working relationship between agents and promoters has changed over the past couple of years?
We’ve been in touch with agents and artist managers mainly through Zoom meetings. I think that what has changed during the pandemic is that people in the music industry started to be nicer to each other and actually care how the other person is feeling and checking on each other – I guess this time showed us that we’re all just humans at the end of the day.

“I see Follow The Step being one of the leading concert agencies in Eastern Europe”

What one thing would you like artists to learn about coming to perform in Poland?
That every single person that came to their concert is there for a reason. We have one of the most dedicated music audiences in Poland. And probably the craziest.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see [myself and also] Follow The Step being one of the leading concert agencies in Eastern Europe. I really want us to expand to other markets. It would be perfect to be able to offer artists a whole tour in this part of Europe and not just Poland. This is our goal now!

IQ 114 is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Lewis Wilde, DICE

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Kathryn Dryburgh, agent’s assistant at ATC Live in the UK. The series continues with Lewis Wilde, head of music partnerships at DICE (UK).

Born and raised in Bradford, Wilde and a friend started an online music blog in 2011. In 2013, whilst working in Brighton as a support worker and bar-backing (having dropped out of university in London after six months), the music blog caught the attention of Phil Hutcheon, the founder and CEO of DICE.

Hutcheon had been running the music management company Deadly, and was just launching DICE, where Wilde landed an internship in 2014. Starting out as an assistant (to pretty much everything) in the early days, Wilde ended up working toward the position of venue and promoter partnerships, which he took on in 2016. In 2021, he was promoted to head of music partnerships.

 


Having dropped out of uni, how have you still ended up in your dream job, and can you talk a little about the passion for music that prompted you to take the risk of dropping out to do something you love?
It was shocking. Advertising and marketing at London Met. I took a year out after sixth form and just panicked and thought “I need to go to uni now because all my mates have gone,” so I picked any course, pretty much. I thought by being in London I could worm my way into a ‘music’ job. You’re a lot less risk-averse when you’re younger, so at the time it didn’t feel like a big decision. Mum hit the roof though.

It sounds like the start of your career was quite tough – having to work bar jobs to fund your blog exploits. What advice would you give to anyone trying to break into the music industry?
I loved all those jobs, to be fair. I think everyone needs to do a stint in hospitality and deal with the public at some point in their life. Character building. And working as a support worker helps shape your perspective massively. My advice would be to get in early – take in as much experience as you can and put yourself about. Everything else will come from that.

What was your music blog about, and what made it different from others to the extent that you caught the attention of your future boss?
It was just anything me and Leo – who I ran it with – loved. We’d support local parties in the north; push new music, anything from UK rap to techno; interview artists we liked; then DJ off the back of it and ended up throwing a few parties around Europe. It was class looking back. Our main thing was to keep the quality high so people will come back to it. Maybe the curation element got Phil’s attention. I’ll ask him.

“Relationships are the key. Focus on building those where you’re most passionate – the rest will fall into place”

We’ve all just been through an unprecedented couple of years, but you managed to get promoted. Tell us a bit about your pandemic experience – what you were up to, and how the promotion came about?
It was obviously pretty rough at the time. Everyone just mucked in to get through, you’d be working on everything; artist streams, fan support, helping venues with funding, and just checking in to see how people were coping. It’s amazing to be on the other side of it. Thankfully we’re back hiring again. Then, personally, I drank loads and Strava’d everything I did, like everyone else.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Seeing DICE go from a 15 to 400 person company over eight years has been pretty mad. Also, it might be stuck in my head because I saw it in full flow last week – but New Century partnering with DICE is really up there for me. It’s an amazing 1,000-cap venue in Manchester with an unreal team behind it – it’s my new favourite venue in the UK. Watching it come to life last week for the launch was pretty special. Everyone needs to go.

How would you encourage the next generation to choose the live music sector for their chosen career path?
Relationships are the key. Focus on building those where you’re most passionate – the rest will fall into place.

IQ 114 is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Kathryn Dryburgh, ATC Live

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Jonathan Hou, senior director of talent and touring at Live Nation APAC. The series continues with Kathryn Dryburgh, agent’s assistant at ATC Live in the UK.

Raised in the small town of St. Andrews (Scotland), Dryburgh longed to feel connected with live music, so moved to Glasgow (the UNESCO city of music) for university as soon as she could.

At university she studied commercial music, and she started booking local shows; took on internships at a label and promotions company; and founded a female-centric events company called Queens of Noise – where she took pride in championing a platform for young creatives.

After graduating, she began her career at ATC Live – after a delayed start due to Covid – where she has been for a short 15 months, working with artists including Passenger, The Twilight Sad, The Magnetic Fields, Billie Marten, and Christian Lee Hutson (alongside Colin Keenan).

 


 You started booking shows when you were at university. How did you learn to do that, and who did you turn to for advice?
It sparked from my first year. I was keen to learn more about Glasgow’s local scene and wanted to get involved with the bands and venues, so took a leap and figured it out as I went. I was 17, from a small seaside town with no live music venues, so to start with it was a guessing game but figured it out as I went along – with advice from friends (who had toured) and lecturers.

Queens of Noise is a great idea. Can you tell us more about it, as well as any other success stories to come out of it?
Queens of Noise is a female-centric, gender-inclusive business based in Glasgow that is striving to tackle gender bias within the music industry. It is a community-focused project and a safe space for anyone looking to work in the music industry.

Founded in 2018, the inaugural event hosted panels, workshops, and showcases over two days. We were blown away by the response, inundated with questions and ideas, people really linked together as a community and many who attended have since achieved huge things – from starting their own project, getting into education, landing placements or full-time positions, and artists gaining large followings (including Swim School, Medicine Cabinet). We’re working on bringing it back now that the pandemic has eased and are super excited to work with some more incredible people.

“I was keen to learn more about Glasgow’s local scene and wanted to get involved with the bands and venues”

If there were only three venues for your artists to play their first shows in, which venues would you want them to be, and why?
Of the one’s I’ve attended, my favourite venues would be The Barrowlands (Glasgow), Metropol (Berlin), and Sneaky Pete’s (Edinburgh). They all have their own unique atmosphere, hold treasured memories for me, and, of course, have hosted outstanding artists throughout the years.

As a New Boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
Gender and inclusivity has always been a huge focus for me in both my studies and while working in the industry. I’d love to see gender-bias tackled in a real, tangible way, with more female-presenting people better represented and in higher positions across all sectors of the industry.

“Never underestimate the importance of anyone, in any room”

Finding your feet in the industry in the post-pandemic scramble cannot have been easy. Do you have any tips for others when it comes to networking and meeting promoters and other business contacts?
It was a minefield. The pandemic hit the month I handed in my dissertation, and shortly after the government was recommending people in the live sector “retrain.” I was completely devastated and felt lost. Shortly after, I began a Masters in music business, in an attempt to stay connected to the world I had worked so hard to become part of. I would say, never underestimate the importance of anyone, in any room. I have always strived to value everyone I meet, learning from them or giving a helping hand – it’s those connections that will boost you when you need it most.

What would you like to see yourself doing in five years?
I’d love to be an agent in my own right. I’d like to develop a full, diverse, and exciting roster of bands that I can really pour time and energy into growing. I’d be delighted if I could make some real, notable change in regards to gender inclusion and visibility, whether on a localised- or large-scale.

“I’d be delighted if I could make some real, notable change in regards to gender inclusion and visibility”

You’re obviously quite driven and entrepreneurial. How do you pick yourself up when something doesn’t work out as you had hoped?
I have a tendency to always have ideas and often work on several things at once, so when one thing doesn’t work out, there’s always another to chisel away at. I do also take things to heart, so feeling deflated can be difficult. In those moments, lean on the community you build for yourself and take a moment, review, and try something else – failure can lead to great things.

And on the flip side, what’s been your career highlight so far – or is there any show or tour you’re particularly looking forward to in the near future?
I am delighted to be working at ATC Live, and particularly with such talented colleagues. Being paired with Colin (Keenan) has been fantastic, his ethic and roster are a great match for me, so I’m excited about pretty much everything the future holds. So far, I’ve got a few favourite moments. Most recently, going to The Great Escape as an attendee was incredible. The only other year I attended was 2019, as a volunteer. Coming back as a professional was a fantastic feeling.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Jonathan Hou, Live Nation

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with James Craigie, a promoter for Goldenvoice in the UK. The series continues with Jonathan Hou, senior director of talent and touring at Live Nation APAC in Taiwan.

A Taiwanese-American born and raised in Houston, Texas, Jonathan got his start in the music industry working as an intern at Live Nation while studying music business at The University of Texas at Austin.

After college, he moved to Taipei to work with B’in Music, touring internationally with the Taiwanese rock band Mayday. In 2014, he re-joined Live Nation and has since worked with the company in multiple markets, most recently in Shanghai, China.

Jonathan now works on booking talent for Live Nation’s APAC division, building tours for international artists across the region.

 


You’re a long way from Texas. What’s the thing you miss most about living in America?
Being in close proximity to family and friends. I think the biggest sacrifice that many of us expats have to make is the time that we spend away from home. Due to Covid, I was unable to see my family for almost three years.

Were you able to speak Mandarin before making your move to Taipei? And how have your language skills improved (do you speak any Hokkien)?
Growing up we would speak Mandarin at home, but I still had a huge learning curve when I first started working in Taiwan. Additionally, even after having worked in Taiwan, there was another learning curve when I started in Shanghai, as the terms and characters that Mainland China (Simplified Chinese) uses is different from Taiwan (Traditional Chinese).

There was definitely a lot of Google Translate used in the early days, but I’m proud to say that my language skills have now improved to a point where most people are unable to tell that I am a foreigner. I can understand some Hokkien, but unfortunately am not fluent… yet.

What about the cultural differences between promoting in the USA and across Asia – what’s the most important lesson you can impart to visiting ‘Western’ acts?
Asia can often be treated as one region, but each market is unique with its own cultures. It’s important to know what the cultural sensitivities are before performing in every market. For example, something that may be well received by fans in Bangkok, may not be so well received in Shanghai.

“Asia can often be treated as one region, but each market is unique with its own cultures”

How did you land your job at B’in Music – did you have to fly there for an interview, for example?
I was in Taipei interning for an indie record label at the time, and through some of the contacts I had made at my internship at Live Nation, I was able to set up a meeting with Julia Hsieh, the COO of B’in Music who also manages Mayday. We met at the backstage of a festival and talked briefly. Two weeks later, she called and offered me a job to tour with Mayday across Europe and North America, and the rest is history.

Asia seems like it will be the next region to really explode in terms of live music business growth. How would you lure fellow professionals to the region to help facilitate that growth?
Asia is the place to be if you’re looking for a challenge and an adventure. The next couple of years are going to be great growth years for the live music industry in Asia, and it’s exciting to be able to be a part of shaping the industry.

And what about the artists? How do you persuade acts and their representatives to invest the time to tour in Asia?
We have a lot of very passionate fans in Asia that cannot wait to see their favourite artists perform. Fans in Asia do not take shows for granted, as it is not guaranteed that an artist will bring their tour to Asia. Also, we have seen over the years that artists that do invest and tour Asia early in their careers have been able to build large, loyal fan bases here, and the pipeline for the next couple of years is huge.

“Artists that do invest and tour Asia early in their careers have been able to build large, loyal fan bases here”

In a non-Covid year, how extensive can the tours that you book be, in terms of cities, venues, and potential new fanbases?
Our most extensive tours in a non-Covid year would typically range around 12-13 shows across 8-9 countries, and this would be for artists of all sizes from club- to stadium-level acts. Moving forward, there is potential for tours to expand even more once all markets open their borders, especially in China, and additional opportunities as new markets open up for touring, such as Vietnam. For some artists it may be possible to do ten or more shows in China alone.

Do you have a mentor or someone you rely on to turn to for advice?
I have two mentors that have helped shape my career, Julia Hsieh (B’in Music) and Dennis Argenzia (Live Nation). Julia taught me a lot of the fundamentals when I first started out in the industry, including how to market an artist/show and how to build a tour. Dennis, who I’ve worked with now for seven years, has taught me everything I know about booking talent and promoting shows.

Is anyone else in your family involved in music – or do they all think you are crazy for your choice of career?
We’re a family of classically trained musicians, so music is in our blood. My family has always been supportive of my career in music, and I am very blessed for that.

“I want to continue to be a bridge between Asia and the West”

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
There are too many to choose from as I think every experience is unique, and I love what I do. However, the top three that stand out are promoting Mayday at Madison Square Garden (first ever Chinese band to perform at MSG), promoting Madonna’s first-ever show in Taipei, and booking keshi’s first Asia tour.

As a New Boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I believe we’ve already made strides with the emergence of 88rising and artists such as keshi over the past couple of years, but I would like to continue to see more AAPI representation throughout the industry, globally.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I want to continue to be a bridge between Asia and the West. I’d like to work on building bigger tours for international artists across Asia, which would entail developing more markets across the region. I would also like to be working on exporting Asian artist tours (not just K-pop) to other parts of the world.

 


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